On sailing a Folksong – Mischief

Seb writes that he has bought Mischief.

Found her in a yard at Calstock on the River Tamar.

There is work to do on her but “her hull, decks and mast are sound; she has new standing rigging; a good set of sails etc.”

“Her interior is completely bare however (pure, as the previous owner put it), with no through hull fittings other than the engine water intake, but she does needs a lot of work done on her interior”

He is doing some immediate work on her “. . . gave her a good scrub; fitted a new fore hatch; refit the genoa tracks; tinkered with the engine . . .”

“I will be taking Mischief to Portsmouth from Plymouth as soon as she is sea worthy.”

Seb has plans for Mischief and originally contacted me about self-steering gear:

I posted on this and two useful links came back – thank you again for those. In the meantime, he (Seb) has noted:

“It seems that few Folksong’s have been fitted with mechanical self-steering gear, so I have been using the Contessa 26 as a source of information regarding the suitability of wind-vanes (given that they are both loosely based on the Folkboat). So far the Windpilot pacific light servo-pendulum gear, or the Hydra Autosteer trim-tab system, seem the most likely candidates, mainly due to their weight and cost.”

My choice would be the Pacific Light but that’s based on study and other people’s preferences – not practical experience.

Here is a clip of one in action following last year’s Jester Challenge.

“Crossing Lyme Bay after returning from 2 months away on Jester Challenge to Azores. Big following sea and wind around F5.”

I’m sorry, I don’t know who made the clip – perhaps somebody could let me know so I can thank them personally.

Any further comments would be welcome.

And Calstock looks the perfect place to find a Folksong!

For love of a boat – Keep turning left

I’ve been watching and thoroughly enjoying Dylan Winter‘s short videos of his trip round the UK.

The series is called ‘Keep Turning Left – around Britain in a small boat’.

The boat is 19 foot. He starts in Bembridge on the Isle of Wight. I have just watched No 16 – we are in the Medway!

I am not convinced by every one of his opinions, but his description is excellent and the camera work great – particularly of the working boats and especially the Thames barges.

Gentle stuff to idle away an evening – passed parts of the country I have visited recently.

From the east coast

Back online again.

14th September

There is no internet connection here. I have a chance to finish a couple of long posts that I started a while back and will feed them through as and when.


We are on the east coast – in a cottage looking down onto Southwold beach. We fall sleep to the sound of waves breaking on sand and wake to the sun rising out of the sea – well, we would do if the cloud hadn’t followed us from the Wescountry.

The lows that have affected the west all summer have given way to high pressure, causing a layer of cloud over this part of the coast and a very bracing north easterly. It does look better this morning, patches of blue sky, the sun spilling intermittently on the water and the wind lighter.

Yesterday, a blue yacht about the same size as Blue Mistress motored up the coast, pitching into the seas, a lone figure at the helm, mainsail ready. I guess he had the tide but it looked a long hard slog into the wind.


Ships off Southwold 2009

The horizon here is full of ships. At night their lights spread into the distance – twenty four vessels at the last count.

This is a sure sign of the recession.

We have come all this way to see exactly what we see each night off Teignmouth. There are twelve vessels there, moored closer inshore.

The last time this happened was in the early nineties.

When the ships disappear, then we will know the recession is almost over – but not until.

On sailing a Folksong – Interview with Eric Bergqvist (continued) . . .

Here is the the continuation of the interview with Eric Bergqvist by Ted Bradbury, who, at the time, was looking for a seaworthy cruiser to sail to the Azores – (with thanks to Mike Burns). I guess this would have been sometime around 1982/83:

Ted: I do appreciate how reasonable your prices are – (hull and deck mouldings £1750 +VAT – ed.), but doesn’t that mean that the boat has been designed to its limits – minimum bulkheads and thin laminates etc?

Eric: Not at all. The long low profile of the Folksong uses less materials as well as contributing to the boats sailing performance. The laminate is of chopped strand mat construction resulting in a thick hull which, although hand laid, is quick and easy to make. The deck is an economical one-piece moulding and the bulkheads and other interior fit-out all wood.

Ted: Why is the wood interior economical? It must take a lot of time to fit and finish.

Eric: It will take longer to fit than the kit of moulded and pre-finished parts that you would have to buy to complete a modern production yacht but these kits are expensive because you are paying for someone else’s labour and overheads. Such kits also offer very little, if any, flexibility or freedom of design. Our basic interior kit is simple and straightforward because it’s been designed specifically for the home-builder who can keep the layout as it is or add his own ideas and innovations as he goes along. We sell bare hulls and decks to customers who want to do it all themselves, or part or fully finished boats to those who haven’t the time or inclination for fitting out. Admittedly the finish we use, painted plywood with varnished hardwood trims, is time-consuming, but it is also relatively inexpensive. It has a warm classic look and can be smartened up each spring with a fresh coat of paint.

Ted: I think I see now why you haven’t attempted to give the Folksong standing headroom, but surely this is unacceptable to most prospective buyers.

Eric: I agree that the lack of standing room is a drawback but a box cabin high enough to allow for this would ruin her lines and performance and increase the cost. There are plenty of 25 footers to choose from with standing headroom but few that can be built as economically as the Folksong or perform as well. In fact the Folksong’s headroom rarely concerns my serious customers because the Folksong design appeals principally to experienced sailors. Like you and I they have the ultimate ambition of making that long ocean passage and are confident that the Folksong can help them accomplish such a dream.

Ted: Finally, Eric, have you made any improvements to the Folksong in the three years you’ve been producing her?

Eric: Of course. The design is constantly developing. From the fifty or so boats built we’ve had a lot of customer feedback and each year a new interior is planned for a customer’s own specific requirements. Recently a new cockpit layout was added with an outboard well, and the Folksong hull has been successfully used for other hone designed cruisers. At the moment, two customers are building Chinese junk rigged Folksongs. One of these is a replica of Blondie Hasler’s Folkboat, Jester, that made so many single-handed transatlantic crossings. And what better recommendation for a Folkboat than that!


Well, there you have it from the designer himself. He wanted the Folksong to be good-looking, economical in its simplicity, have a good performance – hence the low profile, be flexible in its design and be capable of ocean voyages by the ambitious and the experienced.

That’s what I saw the day I first saw Blue Mistress. What about you?

On sailing a Folksong – Fram and Eric Bergqvist

I am not the only one owning a Folksong. In fact, compared to some, I am very much the novice – (as anyone who has read this blog for a while can testify). However, I have learnt a thing or two and I know a gem when I see it.

Kite gybe

This is Fram. The picture speaks for itself.

Mike Burns wrote at the end of last month:

“I home completed a Folksong in 1984 . . . and still have her . . .

“Maiden voyage in 1985 was circumnavigation of the north of Scotland, ie. clockwise Fortrose to Fortrose via the Caledonian Canal.

“Raced her last weekend single handed, flew spinnaker & also had to anchor up when wind dropped & strong tide, only came third out of 8 mixed handicap boats. Had to winch up the anchor with the genoa winch!!”

He has kindly sent images of Fram and copies of his original documents, and has given me permission to publish them here which I am delighted to do. Thank you, Mike. I hope we will exchange more details as time goes on.

~ ~ ~

Among the documents is an interview with the Folksong designer – Eric Bergqvist.

In it, he says: “I wanted a yacht fit for sailing single-handed in the Irish Sea.

“The first of my three requirements was that she had to be attractive. Pride of ownership is always a top priority and a gentle evening’s sail followed by a few pints and a chat at the club can be just as rewarding as a landfall after a long passage.

Fortrose Harbour

“My second priority was performance – speed on all points of sail and the ability to keep going in a short steep sea where you’ve the combination of wind over tide in shallow water. Self-steering is, in my opinion, the best aid to navigation, enabling the skipper to keep dry, warm and alert. The Folksong’s long keel gives good directional stability and suits the construction of a very simple self-steering device.

“My third requirement was ease of construction. Simplicity is the essence of both good design and economy, and I’m not in the position of having a lot of money tied up in a yacht.

These three requirements: looks, performance and economy all add up to a fibreglass Folkboat.”

With dolphins

That sums it up for me. Even though I have spent more money than planned on Blue Mistress – (yeah, well . . .), she is still more economical than many similar boats from the more well-known classes. She performs well and looks good.


Now, some detail. In the extract above, he talks of “the construction of a very simple self-steering device.” Do any Folksong (or Folkboat, Folkdancer or similar long-keeled boat) owners know which one from the early eighties he may have been referring to?

A World Of His Own

On 22nd April 1969, a third year student in London, I watched Robin Knox-Johnson return to Falmouth on television.

His feat made a lasting impression. Like Sir Francis Chichester, he represented a spirit of adventure born of individual skill and personal endeavour. The essence of the achievement? No large back-up team, no communication for much of the voyage, no modern navigational aids – one man running with the elements, (and often against them).

Nowadays, it is difficult to describe his achievement without dropping into the world of spin and hype. They have stolen all the superlatives. Too much has been attributed too often to lesser deeds.You have to read his story in his own words to understand the man and the task.

And, for the rest of us, whatever our sailing ambition, he will be one who went before.

Are there words that sign-post what he did that may work for us now?

Napoleon Hill showed a feel for it early last century when he wrote:

“Whatever you want, oh discontented man, step up. Pay the price – and take it.”

Sir Robin stepped up, paid the price with perseverance and stamina and took his prize – the first to sail non-stop solo round the world.

Because he showed the trip was possible, others have followed with increasing confidence  – as well as with many, many more technical aids, and achieved successes of their own

Now, forty years on, general expectations are such that completing a solo navigation goes largely unmentioned – you have to be a record-breaker (or fail spectacularly) to get noticed.

But remember this: taking the prize may be the headline, but it’s the stepping-up and paying the price that’s the real challenge. And that’s the Knox-Johnson legacy.

All power to him this anniversary.

(Follow the links to see what others think – start here or here)

On sailing a Folksong – update

Blue Mistress has twenty lockers with removable lids, twelve of them in the bunks. Laid out across a worktop and painted white, the lids looked surreal – bright islands in a dark sea.

There is a new folding lid across the stove as well as one above the portable loo. (Before, both these lids were a little tight to remove. There was a trick to it –  meaning that I could manage them fine because I knew how to do it, but the occasional crew didn’t. Therefore, they found the loo difficult to use . . . and said so.)

The varnished trim around the bunks has been matched along both sides, but is yet to be fitted.

The chart table has been revamped.  The old one was slightly too big to keep shipped all the time, although it was a very good dining table. Unfortunately, it also had a split in it. So it has been shortened, reworked with fiddles and, although still removable, will be fitted securely across-ships.

There is a concern that giving. the main cabin an eggshell white finish makes it look clinical. Well, not with all the gear I put in it it won’t! At the moment it looks stark but the cushions and trim will soften it. It’s a boat with a parlour in it, not a parlour with a boat around it.

But it is a boat of just under 26 foot with less than five foot headroom in the main cabin. We are not talking ‘large yacht’ we are talking ‘making a small space as comfortable as possible in circumstances that can be quite uncomfortable’.

Therefore, the art of stowage is magnified here. I have only a hazy idea how the long distance voyagers manage their stowage in boats of this size. A lot of gear must be piled on spare bunks, every nook and cranny filled. Single-handed, it must be tight; two of you must be very tight.

Stowage is not a static art – hiding things away in the bowels of the boat. It’s a dynamic art. Everything has to be accessible, able to be reached when needed and moved to wherever it’s used – sometimes in a hurry.  It’s about lockers that open easily (but not too easily in a sea). It’s about knowing where everything is, and having an instinctive ability to move around the boat to reach it.

It’s about establishing regular habits to be able to give measured responses to irregular events.

It’s about seamanship – handling yourself, handling the boat, handling the gear.


This week, I have noticed a sea-change in my thinking.

For the past four years, I have been concerned about the fabric of the boat – “should we do this or that, change this or that, keep this or that the same, or what?”  Each year, I have concentrated on one part of it. Each year I have taken countless images and studied them for this or that reason. I have sometimes followed outside advice, and sometimes followed my own intuition  and, with the help of Richard Banks at DickyB Marine, we have progressed.

There’s plenty still to do – it’s a boat, there’s always plenty to do . . . and even more to learn.

But the major work is over. From now on, “it is what it is – get on with it”.

I am looking to get Blue Mistress  back in the water and go sailing.

The Folksong 26 (sic)

Blue Mistress back on mooring 1
The main reason I started this blog was to find out about the origins of the Folksong class, and hence my own boat ‘Blue Mistress’. I have learnt a great deal and met some good people from doing so, but after nine months I still only had part of the Folksong story. 

On Saturday, thanks to a small note in Sailing Today, I found a new website www.yachtbrochures.co.uk, run by Mike Davies. Included in a very long list of class names is “Folksong, Eric Berquist, 1983”. Search over.  Mike replied almost immediately to my email and the transaction was completed within a few minutes. An excellent service. Thank you. 

So I have received a brochure written for the Southampton International Boat Show, Mayflower Park, 17-24 September 1983 (Stand B10).  From this I learn that the Folksong was originally sold as “a thoroughbred cruiser/racer you can afford”. 

“Based on the lines of the Folkboat, the FOLKSONG embodies the three principle virtues of that classic boat – looks, performance and economy.”

The builder was Eric Bergqvist, Boatbuilder, The Square, Lymm, Cheshire. 

“Specifications: LOA: 25ft 2in;  LWL: 19.8ft;  Beam: 7ft 3in;  Draft: 3ft 9in;  Ballast: 2500lbs; Hull: GRP, 7oz from deck to waterline, 11oz below; Deck: glass fibre sandwich construction with built-in non-slip surface; Cockpit: self-draining;  Sail area: 280 sq ft;  Engine: provision for an outboard well or an inboard engine.” 

“The Folksong is based on the lines of the Folkboat which was designed in 1941 for a Swedish Yachting Press competition. Over 2000 Folkboats have been built embodying the traditional virtues of a long keel, conventional outboard rudder and seven eighths rig with a sailing performance to match. Although the Folkboat design was intended for wooden construction, clinker and carvel, three fibreglass versions have since been moulded. The Folksong is the only one designed specifically for home completion.

In order to retain both the classic lines and the excellent performance of the craft no attempt has been made to cater for standing headroom. If necessary though, this could be achieved with the use of a spray dodger. The accommodation is not spacious but the layout is flexible. With thoughtful planning and use of timber and fabrics you can create an interior which is warm and comfortable as well as practical.

Twenty five feet is the minimum length of yacht generally considered capable of continental cruising without bravery or heroics. The Folksong is an uncomplicated yacht – economical but with no compromise on safety.” 

There’s more. If you own a Folksong and would like to discuss it, please contact me. Alternatively, I recommend Mike Davies’ website.